Texas Lawyer Says Neighbors Need To Stop Complaining About His New Tank

Wealthy homeowners in one tiny Fort Worth suburb say their neighbor’s decision to park a World War II-era tank in front of his multimillion-dollar home is making them nervous.

At least that’s what attorney Tony Buzbee, a history buff who purchased the WWII tank for $600,000 earlier this year, learned when his neighborhood homeowners’ association sent him a letter saying the tank “impedes traffic” and causes a “safety issue” and “serious concerns for neighbors."

Buzbee says he’s temporarily storing the tank at his River Oaks, Texas home before moving it out to his ranch in East Texas later this year. But even though he’s made it clear that the tank’s presence is temporary, his neighbors are pressing him to remove the tank as soon as possible, according to Houston’s KHOU television station.

Unfazed by his whiny neighbors, Buzbee is pushing back against what he described as NIMBYism run amok, telling local media outlets that his neighbors need to “lighten up” and that the tank isn’t going anywhere unless he decides to move it. Buzbee said the tank “took a year to get here, but now it’s on River Oaks Boulevard,” according to Fox. “This particular tank landed at Normandy. It liberated Paris, and ultimately went all the way to Berlin. There’s a lot of history here.”

"It's not violating any ordinance, but for some people it makes the homeowners association uncomfortable," said Buzbee.

 

They sent Buzbee a letter saying the tank "impedes traffic", causes a "safety issue" and is causing "serious concerns for neighbors".

 

"If you're offended just lighten up, my goodness it isn't hurting anyone," said Buzbee.

 

Buzbee says he's not losing too much sleep over that HOA letter. For now though, he's keeping his new tank right where it is.

 

"The problem is there is no action they can take," said Buzbee. "They can ticket it or they can try to tow it, but the truth is unless I decide to move it, it's not going anywhere."

 

Buzbee says the tank will eventually end up on his ranch in east Texas.

The irony is, with the tank easily visible to any would-be criminals, Buzbee's block is probably the safest in the town.
 

Mass Shootings: The Military-Entertainment Complex’s Culture Of Violence Turns Deadly

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

This latest mass shooting in Las Vegas that left more than 50 people dead and more than 500 injured is as obscure as they come: a 64-year-old retiree with no apparent criminal history, no military training, and no obvious axe to grind opens fire on a country music concert crowd from a hotel room 32 floors up using a semi-automatic gun that may have been rigged to fire up to 700 rounds a minute, then kills himself.

We’re left with more questions than answers, none of them a flattering reflection of the nation’s values, political priorities, or the manner in which the military-industrial complex continues to dominate, dictate and shape almost every aspect of our lives.

For starters, why do these mass shootings keep happening? Mass shootings have taken place at churches, in nightclubs, on college campuses, on military bases, in elementary schools, in government offices, and at concerts. This shooting is the deadliest to date.

 

What is it about America that makes violence our nation’s calling card?

 

Is it because America is a gun culture?

 

Is it because guns are so readily available? After all, the U.S. is home to more firearms than adults. Curiously enough, the majority of gun-related deaths in the U.S. are suicides, not homicides.

 

Is it because entertainment violence is the hottest selling ticket at the box office?

 

Is it because the government continues to whet the nation’s appetite for violence and war through paid propaganda programs (seeded throughout sports entertainment, Hollywood blockbusters and video games) – what professor Roger Stahl refers to as “militainment” – that glorify the military and serve as recruiting tools for America’s expanding military empire?

 

Is it because the United States is the number one consumer, exporter and perpetrator of violence and violent weapons in the world? America spends more money on war than other countries. America polices the globe, with 800 military bases and troops stationed in 160 countries. And the war hawks have turned the American homeland into a quasi-battlefield with military gear, weapons and tactics. In turn, domestic police forces have become roving extensions of the military – a standing army.

 

Or is the Second Amendment to blame, as many continue to suggest? Would there be fewer mass shootings if tighter gun control laws were enacted?

Then again, could it be, as some have speculated, that these shootings are all part of an elaborate plan to incite fear and chaos, heighten national tensions and shift us that much closer to a complete lockdown? After all, the military and our militarized police forces have been predicting and preparing for exactly this kind of scenario for years now.

Perhaps there’s no single one factor to blame for this gun violence. However, there is a common denominator, and that is a war-drenched, violence-imbued, profit-driven military industrial complex that has invaded almost every aspect of our lives.

Ask yourself: Who are these shooters modelling themselves after? Where are they finding the inspiration for their weaponry and tactics? Whose stance and techniques are they mirroring?

In almost every instance, you can connect the dots back to the military.

We are a military culture.

We have been a nation at war for most of our existence.

We are a nation that makes a living from killing through defense contracts, weapons manufacturing and endless wars.

In order to sustain the nation’s appetite for war over the long haul in spite of the costs of war in lives lost and dollars spent—and little else to show for it—the military has had to work overtime to churn out pro-war, pro-military propaganda. It’s exactly what President Eisenhower warned against (“the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex”) in his 1961 farewell address.

We didn’t listen then and we’re still not listening now.

All the while, the government’s war propaganda machine has grown more sophisticated and entrenched in American culture.

All of the military equipment featured in blockbuster movies such as X-Men and Transformers is provided—at taxpayer expense—in exchange for carefully placed promotional spots aimed at indoctrinating the American populace into believing that patriotism means throwing their support behind the military wholeheartedly and unquestioningly.

Even reality TV shows have gotten in on the gig.

It’s estimated that U.S. military intelligence agencies (including the NSA) have influenced over 1,800 movies and TV shows.

And then there are the growing number of video games, a number of which are engineered by or created for the military, which have accustomed players to interactive war play through military simulations and first-person shooter scenarios.

This is how you acclimate a population to war.

This is how you cultivate loyalty to a war machine.

Not satisfied with peddling its war propaganda through Hollywood, reality TV shows and embedded journalists whose reports came across as glorified promotional ads for the military, the Pentagon turned to sports to further advance its agenda, “tying the symbols of sports with the symbols of war.”

The military has been firmly entrenched in the nation’s sports spectacles ever since.

Remember, just before this Vegas shooting gave the media, the politicians and the easily distracted public something new to obsess over, the headlines were dominated by President Trump’s feud with the NFL over players kneeling during the national anthem.

That, too, was yet another example of how much the military entertainment complex – which paid $53 million of taxpayer money between 2012 and 2015 to pro sports teams for military tributes—has infiltrated American culture.

Are you starting to get the picture now?

When you talk about the Las Vegas mass shooting, you’re not dealing with a single shooter scenario. Rather, you’re dealing with a sophisticated, far-reaching war machine that has woven itself into the very fabric of this nation.

You want to stop the gun violence?

Stop the worship of violence that permeates our culture.

Stop glorifying the military industrial complex with flyovers and salutes during sports spectacles.

Stop acting as if there is anything patriotic about military exercises and occupations that bomb hospitals and schools.

Stop treating guns and war as entertainment fodder in movies, music, video games, toys, amusement parks, reality TV and more.

Stop distributing weapons of war to the local police and turning them into extensions of the military—weapons that have no business being anywhere but on a battlefield.

Most of all, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, stop falling for the military industrial complex’s psychological war games.

The Largest Hack Ever? Yahoo Admits 2013 Data Breach Impacted All 3 Billion Accounts

Is it too late for Verizon to get some more of its money back?

After the entity responsible for selling Yahoo agreed to cut $350 million off the company’s sales price earlier this year following revelations that hackers had stolen sensitive  account information of as many as 1.5 billion user accounts during two separate data breaches, the Wall Street Journal is now reporting that the scale of one of those intrusions was much larger than initially believed.

A 2013 data breach that was initially believed to have impacted 1 billion, actually impacted all of Yahoo's 3 billion user accounts, Verizon announced on Tuesday. Verizon’s acquisition of Yahoo formally closed in June after contentious negotiations that were complicated by the discovery of the hacks. The smaller of the two incidents, which took place in 2014, was first disclosed to the public last September. It reportedly involved 500 million user accounts. Three months later, in December, the company publicized the 2013 hack.

The stolen data included names, email addresses, dates of birth, telephone numbers and encrypted passwords, Yahoo has said. In October, before the second breach was even disclosed, Verizon signaled that it would likely consider the data breach to be a “material event”, allowing it to change the terms of its deal to buy Yahoo, which it did in February.

As WSJ pointed out, the disclosure shows that executives are still coming to grips with Yahoo's myriad security problems.

Even before the number of affected user accounts was revised higher to 3 billion, the breach was still the largest on record by number affected. However, most experts consider the Equifax breach, which involved sensitive financial and personal information like credit card, social security and drivers’ license numbers, more damaging than the Yahoo breach.

A spokesman for Oath, the new name of Verizon’s Yahoo unit, said the company determined last week that the break-in was much worse than thought, after it received new information from outside the company. He declined to elaborate on the source of that information. Compromised customer information included usernames, passwords, and in some cases telephone numbers and dates of birth, the spokesman said.

Fortunately for Yahoo executives, as part of the revised deal, Verizon agreed to forfeit the right to sue Yahoo for allegedly covering up the hacks. Meanwhile, the entity selling Yahoo has retained liability for an SEC investigation that was launched in January, as well as any shareholder lawsuits related to the deal itself.
 

Chris Hedges On The End Of Empire: “The Death Spiral Appears Unstoppable”

Authored by Chris Hedges via TruthDig.com,

The American empire is coming to an end. The U.S. economy is being drained by wars in the Middle East and vast military expansion around the globe. It is burdened by growing deficits, along with the devastating effects of deindustrialization and global trade agreements. Our democracy has been captured and destroyed by corporations that steadily demand more tax cuts, more deregulation and impunity from prosecution for massive acts of financial fraud, all the while looting trillions from the U.S. treasury in the form of bailouts. The nation has lost the power and respect needed to induce allies in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa to do its bidding. Add to this the mounting destruction caused by climate change and you have a recipe for an emerging dystopia. Overseeing this descent at the highest levels of the federal and state governments is a motley collection of imbeciles, con artists, thieves, opportunists and warmongering generals. And to be clear, I am speaking about Democrats, too.

Source: Mr.Fish

The empire will limp along, steadily losing influence until the dollar is dropped as the world’s reserve currency, plunging the United States into a crippling depression and instantly forcing a massive contraction of its military machine.

Short of a sudden and widespread popular revolt, which does not seem likely, the death spiral appears unstoppable, meaning the United States as we know it will no longer exist within a decade or, at most, two. The global vacuum we leave behind will be filled by China, already establishing itself as an economic and military juggernaut, or perhaps there will be a multipolar world carved up among Russia, China, India, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa and a few other states. Or maybe the void will be filled, as the historian Alfred W. McCoy writes in his book “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power,” by “a coalition of transnational corporations, multilateral military forces like NATO, and an international financial leadership self-selected at Davos and Bilderberg” that will “forge a supranational nexus to supersede any nation or empire.”

Under every measurement, from financial growth and infrastructure investment to advanced technology, including supercomputers, space weaponry and cyberwarfare, we are being rapidly overtaken by the Chinese. “In April 2015 the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggested that the American economy would grow by nearly 50 percent over the next 15 years, while China’s would triple and come close to surpassing America’s in 2030,” McCoy noted. China became the world’s second largest economy in 2010, the same year it became the world’s leading manufacturing nation, pushing aside a United States that had dominated the world’s manufacturing for a century. The Department of Defense issued a sober report titled “At Our Own Peril: DoD Risk Assessment in a Post-Primacy World.” It found that the U.S. military “no longer enjoys an unassailable position versus state competitors,” and “it no longer can … automatically generate consistent and sustained local military superiority at range.” McCoy predicts the collapse will come by 2030.

Empires in decay embrace an almost willful suicide. Blinded by their hubris and unable to face the reality of their diminishing power, they retreat into a fantasy world where hard and unpleasant facts no longer intrude. They replace diplomacy, multilateralism and politics with unilateral threats and the blunt instrument of war.

This collective self-delusion saw the United States make the greatest strategic blunder in its history, one that sounded the death knell of the empire – the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. The architects of the war in the George W. Bush White House, and the array of useful idiots in the press and academia who were cheerleaders for it, knew very little about the countries being invaded, were stunningly naive about the effects of industrial warfare and were blindsided by the ferocious blowback. They stated, and probably believed, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, although they had no valid evidence to support this claim. They insisted that democracy would be implanted in Baghdad and spread across the Middle East. They assured the public that U.S. troops would be greeted by grateful Iraqis and Afghans as liberators. They promised that oil revenues would cover the cost of reconstruction. They insisted that the bold and quick military strike—“shock and awe”—would restore American hegemony in the region and dominance in the world. It did the opposite. As Zbigniew Brzezinski noted, this “unilateral war of choice against Iraq precipitated a widespread delegitimation of U.S. foreign policy.”

Historians of empire call these military fiascos, a feature of all late empires, examples of “micro-militarism.” The Athenians engaged in micro-militarism when during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) they invaded Sicily, suffering the loss of 200 ships and thousands of soldiers and triggering revolts throughout the empire. Britain did so in 1956 when it attacked Egypt in a dispute over the nationalization of the Suez Canal and then quickly had to withdraw in humiliation, empowering a string of Arab nationalist leaders such as Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and dooming British rule over the nation’s few remaining colonies. Neither of these empires recovered.

“While rising empires are often judicious, even rational in their application of armed force for conquest and control of overseas dominions, fading empires are inclined to ill-considered displays of power, dreaming of bold military masterstrokes that would somehow recoup lost prestige and power,” McCoy writes.

 

“Often irrational even from an imperial point of view, these micromilitary operations can yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the process already under way.”

Empires need more than force to dominate other nations. They need a mystique. This mystique—a mask for imperial plunder, repression and exploitation—seduces some native elites, who become willing to do the bidding of the imperial power or at least remain passive. And it provides a patina of civility and even nobility to justify to those at home the costs in blood and money needed to maintain empire. The parliamentary system of government that Britain replicated in appearance in the colonies, and the introduction of British sports such as polo, cricket and horse racing, along with elaborately uniformed viceroys and the pageantry of royalty, were buttressed by what the colonialists said was the invincibility of their navy and army. England was able to hold its empire together from 1815 to 1914 before being forced into a steady retreat. America’s high-blown rhetoric about democracy, liberty and equality, along with basketball, baseball and Hollywood, as well as our own deification of the military, entranced and cowed much of the globe in the wake of World War II. Behind the scenes, of course, the CIA used its bag of dirty tricks to orchestrate coups, fix elections and carry out assassinations, black propaganda campaigns, bribery, blackmail, intimidation and torture. But none of this works anymore.

The loss of the mystique is crippling. It makes it hard to find pliant surrogates to administer the empire, as we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. The photographs of physical abuse and sexual humiliation imposed on Arab prisoners at Abu Ghraib inflamed the Muslim world and fed al-Qaida and later Islamic State with new recruits. The assassination of Osama bin Laden and a host of other jihadist leaders, including the U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, openly mocked the concept of the rule of law. The hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of refugees fleeing our debacles in the Middle East, along with the near-constant threat from militarized aerial drones, exposed us as state terrorists. We have exercised in the Middle East the U.S. military’s penchant for widespread atrocities, indiscriminate violence, lies and blundering miscalculations, actions that led to our defeat in Vietnam.

The brutality abroad is matched by a growing brutality at home. Militarized police gun down mostly unarmed, poor people of color and fill a system of penitentiaries and jails that hold a staggering 25 percent of the world’s prisoners although Americans represent only 5 percent of global population. Many of our cities are in ruins. Our public transportation system is a shambles. Our educational system is in steep decline and being privatized. Opioid addiction, suicide, mass shootings, depression and morbid obesity plague a population that has fallen into profound despair. The deep disillusionment and anger that led to Donald Trump’s election – a reaction to the corporate coup d’état and the poverty afflicting at least half of the country – have destroyed the myth of a functioning democracy. Presidential tweets and rhetoric celebrate hate, racism and bigotry and taunt the weak and the vulnerable. The president in an address before the United Nations threatened to obliterate another nation in an act of genocide. We are worldwide objects of ridicule and hatred. The foreboding for the future is expressed in the rash of dystopian films, motion pictures that no longer perpetuate American virtue and exceptionalism or the myth of human progress.

“The demise of the United States as the preeminent global power could come far more quickly than anyone imagines,” McCoy writes. “Despite the aura of omnipotence empires often project, most are surprisingly fragile, lacking the inherent strength of even a modest nation-state. Indeed, a glance at their history should remind us that the greatest of them are susceptible to collapse from diverse causes, with fiscal pressures usually a prime factor. For the better part of two centuries, the security and prosperity of the homeland has been the main objective for most stable states, making foreign or imperial adventures an expendable option, usually allocated no more than 5 percent of the domestic budget. Without the financing that arises almost organically inside a sovereign nation, empires are famously predatory in their relentless hunt for plunder or profit—witness the Atlantic slave trade, Belgium’s rubber lust in the Congo, British India’s opium commerce, the Third Reich’s rape of Europe, or the Soviet exploitation of Eastern Europe.”

When revenues shrink or collapse, McCoy points out, “empires become brittle.”

“So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly wrong, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, eleven years for the Ottomans, seventeen for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, just twenty-seven years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003 [when the U.S. invaded Iraq],” he writes.

Many of the estimated 69 empires that have existed throughout history lacked competent leadership in their decline, having ceded power to monstrosities such as the Roman emperors Caligula and Nero. In the United States, the reins of authority may be in the grasp of the first in a line of depraved demagogues.

“For the majority of Americans, the 2020s will likely be remembered as a demoralizing decade of rising prices, stagnant wages, and fading international competitiveness,” McCoy writes. The loss of the dollar as the global reserve currency will see the U.S. unable to pay for its huge deficits by selling Treasury bonds, which will be drastically devalued at that point. There will be a massive rise in the cost of imports. Unemployment will explode. Domestic clashes over what McCoy calls “insubstantial issues” will fuel a dangerous hypernationalism that could morph into an American fascism.

A discredited elite, suspicious and even paranoid in an age of decline, will see enemies everywhere. The array of instruments created for global dominance—wholesale surveillance, the evisceration of civil liberties, sophisticated torture techniques, militarized police, the massive prison system, the thousands of militarized drones and satellites—will be employed in the homeland. The empire will collapse and the nation will consume itself within our lifetimes if we do not wrest power from those who rule the corporate state.

“Credit Negative For U.S. Government”: Moody’s Threatens Downgrade If Trump Tax Plan Is Passed

As various institutions continue to publish very detailed estimates of how Trump’s tax plan will impact the federal budget, which is somewhat amazing since income brackets haven’t even been assigned yet, Moody’s published a note today threatening to finally strip the U.S. of its AAA credit rating if the tax plan is ultimately passed as currently contemplated.

President Donald Trump’s tax proposal would probably weigh on the U.S. government’s credit outlook, on concerns that it would cause the federal deficit to swell, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

 

“The Trump tax framework is likely credit negative for the U.S. government,” Moody’s said in a statement. “Tax cuts would not be offset by equivalent cuts to spending, which would put upward pressure on the federal budget deficit and debt,” while “the tax reform’s effect on economic growth and, in turn, federal government revenue would also affect U.S. credit strength.”

 

By contrast, banks, insurers and asset managers would benefit from a lower tax rate, Moody’s said.

Moodys

As we pointed out last Friday, the Tax Policy Center found that Trump’s plan would cost $2.4 trillion over the first decade, assuming no spending cuts, and result in federal deficits soaring by several hundred billion dollars each year. 

  • The proposal would reduce federal revenues by $2.4 trillion over the first ten years and $3.2 in the second decade. This means that absent a matched deduction in spending, US deficit and debt will increase by a similar amount. This is a problem as a Senate GOP budget resolution unveiled on Friday only allows for adding $1.5 trillion to the debt, implying a revenue shortfall of just under $1 trillion.
    • The business income tax provisions—including those affecting corporations and pass-through businesses—would reduce revenues by $2.6 trillion over the first ten years. Elimination of estate and gift taxes would lose another $240 billion. The individual income tax provisions (excluding those related to business income) would increase revenues by about $470 billion over the same period.

So, just to summarize Moody’s position on this issue, a ~$1.5 trillion budget deficit in 2009 was no problem at all but a ~$1 trillion budget deficit today would suddenly merit a downgrade.

Of course, the Trump administration has argued that increased GDP growth will offset lower tax receipts and actually result in lower deficits rather than higher. 

To that end, Deutsche Bank’s economists took a shot a estimating what kind of GDP boost could be expected from the Trump tax plan and found that a 0.4% – 0.5% boost might be reasonable…

Given the size and scope of the tax plan presented, it is worthwhile to investigate the potential macroeconomic implications of the bill. We use the Fed’s model of the US economy (FRB/US) to do just that.

 

The full tax plan provides a meaningful lift to growth in the coming years (Figure 7). Year-over-year growth in Q4 2018 and Q4 2019 is about 0.4pp and 0.5pp higher than the no ?scal stimulus baseline.  Higher growth leads to a tighter labor market. The unemployment rate falls to 4% by end-2018 and 3.85% by end-2019 under the full plan, 0.2pp and 0.35pp below the baseline with no tax cuts (Figure 8). The more modest, and in our view more realistic, tax plan intuitively produces more modest results for growth and the unemployment rate. Growth is higher by about 0.2pp and 0.3pp, and the unemployment rate is 0.1pp and 0.2pp lower, by end-2018 and end-2019, respectively.

…that said, they also found that any increase in growth expectations would just be offset by quicker interest rate hikes from the Fed.

Despite assuming a gradual response by the Fed, the implied fed funds rate is significantly higher in response to the tax cuts, as the Fed at least partially o?sets the further decline in the unemployment rate below NAIRU (Figure 9). By end-2018, the fed funds rate would be 13bp higher in response to the full tax plan and 5bp higher under the more modest tax plan scenario. The gap between the no-stimulus scenario and tax cut scenarios is considerably wider further out. By end-2019, the fed funds rate would be 40bp higher in response to the full tax plan and 20bp higher under the more modest tax plan scenario. These differences rise to 60bp and 30bp by end-2020 – more than two hikes more under the full tax cut scenario and more than one additional hike under the modest stimulus compared with the baseline.

Of course, the most comical part of all of this is that, after years of exponential debt growth, Moody’s has finally decided that Trump’s tax cuts will be the final straw that forces them to strip the U.S. of its pristine debt rating…